The Rocks suffered a major setback in their pre-season planning when they lost club legend Dan Beck to Burgess Hill – but received a huge boost hours later as a young and new-look team beat Brighton and Hove Albion’s under-23s.
Beck was one of last season’s squad members who was expected to return for another season at Nyewood Lane but manager Jack Pearce said his personal circumstances had changed and he needed to switch to a club closer to home.
But disappointment at the midfield maestro’s departure was offset by Tuesday night’s 2-1 home friendly victory over the young Seagulls, in which a number of new signings and trialists showed up well.
Beck, who has played more than 400 times for the Rocks in several spells at Nyewood Lane, indicated in May he was happy to have another season with Bognor. His move has dismayed Rocks fans, who have recently seen other fan favourites leave the club.
But Pearce said: “Dan’s a great lad and he’s got experience and he plays the game exactly how I want it played. He was not around for the start of our pre-season training and he rang me last week to say his circumstances had changed and he needed to be with a club that didn’t involve so much travelling for him.
“Burgess Hill is much closer for him and a move there suited him at this time.
“I’m ever so sorry to see him go but it’s no slight on Bognor. He’s been brilliant for us over many years - one of the best players we have ever had at the club.
“Dan was one of those we were expecting to stay but he is leaving because of personal circumstances, not because of a dislike for Bognor or Jack Pearce.”
Gloom over Beck’s loss was lifted as a crowd of around 300 saw goals by Doug Tuck and trialist Jack Parkinson earn a deserved win over Brighton’s up-and-coming stars.
The Rocks line-up was two-thirds last season’s team and one third new faces – and they impressed.
Blake upbeat after Rocks beat Brighton
Ex-Worthing ace Harvey Sparks and a new loanee from Havant Marley Ridge were both in the starting line-up along with trialist defender Sam Rolf, while hopefuls Cian Tilley, Jamie Carroll and Parkinson came on in the second half.
Pearce said: “Because of where we are we need young, hungry players who want to try to pass it. We’ve got quite a few young players again but we have got weaknesses and the name of the game is to play to your strengths and cover your weaknesses.
“When I look at the team now, we could struggle against a bit of physicality.
The kids from Chichester College did themselves proud. I was very pleased but we’ve got a long way to go - a long way to go. And we need to get forwards in. We need two – maybe two good young players from Football League clubs.”
Pearce is delighted with how new first-team coach Robbie Blake, who has joined after a coaching spell with Pompey, is settling in.
And Blake is highly encouraged by what he has seen from the squad in his first couple of weeks leading training.
“What’s surprised me has been how dedicated and how fit the lads are. So far everything we’ve asked of them in training has worked,” said Blake.
“We’re really encouraged what we saw against Brighton. A couple of trialists came on and did really well so it’s all positive. We can’t get too carried away because it was the first game but we stuck at it first half under a little bit of pressure.
“We changed the formation then we looked a bit of a threat and have gone on and won the game. I think our second-half performance deserved that.
“It’s easy to say in pre-season that results don’t matter but I’ve been in football too long to just flit around. You want to win no matter who you’re playing, whether you’re underdogs or are expected to win. Winning breeds confidence and gives you momentum.”
Ex-Pompey youngster Calvin Davies was named press-box man of the match against Brighton and was one of several existing squad members to impress.
Blake said: “I can’t wait to get the season started but there’s plenty of time before that to keep getting players in and getting them hungry. As we saw against Brighton we’ve got a core of a really good side.
“We’ve got to try to experiment and the more players we can get in, and the better those players are, it’s got to be beneficial to us.
“Between now and the start of the season there’ll be more additions and maybe a couple of loan players.
“We have a lot of good young players amd the main thing is having players who want to learn. If they don’t want to learn you’re fighting a losing battle, but these ones are taking everything on board.”
The Rocks host Horndean tomorrow (Friday, 7.45pm) and Pompey are at the Lane next Tuesday, also 7.45.
Blake is looking forward to a reunion with his former Pompey colleagues when Kenny Jackett sends a Blues XI to Nyewood Lane on Tuesday.
“There are so many good people at Portsmouth. I wish them all the best and it will nice to see some old faces. It’s a good game for Bognor and hopefully we can apply ourselves like we have against Brighton and get a good result.”